New Jersey has decided to release a nurse who was fighting an order that forcibly quarantined her after she returned from Africa where she treated Ebola patients.
The release was announced this morning after Kaci Hickox, hired a lawyer to sue over her mandatory 21-day quarantine. Shortly before the decision by the New Jersey Health Department, the nurse said she hopes "this nightmare of mine and the fight that I’ve undertaken is not in vain.”
Hickox, who has tested negative for the lethal virus, was isolated under New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's policy of a 21-day mandatory quarantine for health care workers returning from helping Ebola patients in West Africa.
This morning, the nurse sent a message to ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser thanking people for taking her side.
“I’m so thankful for the immense attention and support I’ve received. I just hope this nightmare of mine and the fight that I’ve undertaken is not in vain!” Hickox wrote.
The New Jersey Department of Health issued a statement this morning that Hickox has been "symptom free for the last 24 hours," and that it decided to discharge her after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"After consulting with her, she has requested transport to Maine, and that transport will be arranged via a private carrier not via mass transit or commercial aircraft," the department said.
Senior officials in the Christie administration said she will be driven in a car and escorted by officials from the state and Doctors Without Borders, the agency the Hickox worked for in West Africa.
"Health officials in Maine have been notified of her arrangements and will make a determination under their own laws on her treatment when she arrives," the New Jersey statement said.
Hickox's release appeared to be a reversal by the Christie administration. The governor defended the mandatory 21-day quarantine order on Sunday.
Christie, who was in Florida today, said that "when she [Hickox] has time to reflect, she'll understand" the quarantine, according to the Associated Press.
Hickox, 33, hired civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to fight her mandatory quarantine. The nurse has said she feels that her "basic human rights are being violated," kept in a isolation tent at University Hospital in Newark, despite showing no symptoms of the Ebola virus.
"Medically speaking there's no reason for the state of New Jersey to keep her quarantined," Siegel said outside the hospital on Sunday. "She very simply wants to be released. We will advocate for the state of New Jersey and the governor to release her as soon as possible."
Hickox, who was treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, never registered a fever, Siegel said, but the Health Department's statement this morning she did briefly have a fever. It did not say what her temperature was.
She was the first person quarantined under a new strict policy instituted by Christie on Friday.
New York, Illinois and Florida also instituted mandatory quarantines for anyone exposed to people infected with Ebola health. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow home quarantines for people showing no symptoms, rather than requiring isolation in hospitals.
The policies have drawn the attention of the Obama administration, which told the governors of New Jersey and New York that there are "concerns" about the mandatory quarantines, a senior administration official said today.
Hickox told CNN she is being held in a "tent structure" outside of University Hospital, "with a port-a-potty like structure and no shower and no connection to the outside world except my iPhone."
"This is an extreme that is really unacceptable, and I feel like my basic human rights have been violated," Hickox told CNN.
Medical experts say that there is no reason for mandatory quarantines, since unless a person is showing symptoms of Ebola, they are not contagious.
"As a scientist and as a health person, if I were asked I would not have recommended [mandatory quarantines]," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said today on "This Week."
Christie has said he concluded the quarantine was necessary to protect public health in his state and that he thinks the CDC "eventually will come around to our point of view on this."
A New York doctor, Craig Spencer, who returned from treating Ebola patients in Africa has tested positive for the virus and is being treated at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. His fiancee, Morgan Dixon, and two other people he came into close contact with have also been quarantined, but they haven't shown any symptoms.
In addition, a 5-year-old boy who returned from Guinea on Saturday was taken to a New York City hospital on Sunday with Ebola-like symptoms. When the boy's temperature spiked this morning, doctors decided to test him for Ebola.